Thirty years ago I worked near a Mediterranean restaurant that served the most incredible chicken souvlaki. It was one of my favorite go-to lunch places and I ate there at least twice a week. Tasty chicken perfectly grilled on a skewer and served with warm pita bread, tomatoes, lettuce and tzatziki sauce. I can still taste it. So amazing!
Souvlaki is popular Greek fast food and you can find at most kiosks. They are as common as hot dog stand in NYC. It’s typically eaten right off the skewer, but you can also get it with pita and all the fixings. The word souvlaki is a diminutive word of a Medieval Greek word for skewer. Meat on a stick has always been popular and it dates back to the Bronze Age. If it’s not broken, don’t fix it. Meat on a stick is fast, portable and easy. To this day, this method of cooking and eating meat is still widely popular and most, if not all countries have their own meat-on-a-stick favorite.
HERE’S HOW I MADE IT
Start by trimming the chicken and cutting it into 1 to 1 1/2 inch cubes. Set it aside in a glass or stainless steel bowl. Stainless steel is a non-reactive bowl. I like to use chicken breast but, boneless-skinless thighs work great too.
In a measuring cup or small bowl, combine extra virgin olive oil, lemon juice, minced garlic, dry oregano, kosher salt and white pepper. Stir well and pour it over the chicken.
Massage the chicken to ensure all the pieces are coated in the marinade. Cover with plastic wrap and marinate for at least 30 minutes in the refrigerator, best for 2 hours.
Allow the chicken to come to room temperature at least 45 minutes before grilling. This will ensure the meat cooks evenly throughout; otherwise, you’ll have crispy chicken on the outside and raw chicken on the inside. If you are using wooden skewers, soak them for 30 minutes before threading or the exposed ends will burn on the grill.
Heat the grill to 375°F or about medium-high heat. Coat the grates with extra virgin olive oil – you can brush it on or use a non-stick grilling spray. The key is to coat it with oil so the chicken easily releases when you want it to. Place the skewers directly on the grill a few inches apart, if you can. I like to place them at an angle so they don’t fall through the grill slats or get stuck. Grill for 5-6 minutes, turning occasionally for even cooking. If your chicken chunks are thicker, you may need additional time. The internal temperature should read 155°F. Remove the chicken from the grill, tent with foil for 3-4 minutes before serving. As it rests, the chicken will continue to cook due to the internal heat and the juices will redistribute.
Serve with warm pita bread, lettuce, tomatoes, red onions, kalamata olives and tzatziki sauce (greek cucumber and yogurt sauce). To assemble, spread some tzatziki sauce on the warm pita bread, remove the chicken from the skewer and place inside the pita bread then top with your favorite toppings.
Souvlaki is great any time of year, but especially during the summer BBQ season! Enjoy.
This is an easy recipe for Greece's famous street food. This delicious skewered chicken is packed with Mediterranean flavor.
- 3 chicken breasts, skinless and boneless, cut into 1 to 1½-inch cubes
- ⅓ cup extra virgin olive oil
- juice of 2 large lemons
- 6-8 garlic cloves, minced
- 2 teaspoons dry oregano
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt prefer Diamond brand
- ⅛ teaspoon white pepper
PITA & FIXINGS
- pita bread
- sliced tomates
- Romaine lettuce
- red onion, thinly sliced
- Kalamata olives
Trim the chicken breast and cut evenly into 1 to 1½-inch bite size pieces. Set aside.
In a large bowl, combine extra virgin olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, dry oregano, kosher salt and white pepper.
Add the chicken cubes and massage the marinade throughout the chicken cubes. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes, best for two hours.
Note: The longer the chicken sits in the marinade, the more flavorful and moist the chicken becomes. Can be left to marinade overnight, be aware the lemon juice will begin to cook the chicken, but it doesn't affect the flavor or texture.
Allow the chicken to come to room temperature about 45 minutes before grilling so it cooks evenly. If using wooden skewers, soak the skewers in water for 30 minutes before threading. Remove the chicken from the refrigerator and thread in skewers. Don't overcrowd the skewer to allow even cooking and grill marks and coloring.
Heat grill to 375°F or medium-high and brush grates or use a non-stick grilling spray to coat the grates.
Place the skewers directly on the grill a few inches apart and grill for 5-6 minutes, turning the skewers every two minutes or so for even cooking.
Note: If your chicken chunks are thicker, you may need additional cooking time. The internal temperature of the chicken should read 155°F.
Remove from chicken from the grill, tent with foil for 3-4 minutes before serving.
Spread some tzatziki sauce on the warm pita bread. Remove the chicken from the skewer and place chunks on top of the sauce. Top with lettuce, tomatoes, red onions and olives, as desired. Serve additional tzatziki sauce on the side.